No. 1 basketball recruit DeAndre Ayton picks Arizona

No. 1 basketball recruit DeAndre Ayton picks Arizona


No. 1 basketball recruit DeAndre Ayton picks Arizona


Hillcrest Prep's DeAndre Ayton (Photo: Patrick Breen/azcentral sports)

Hillcrest Prep’s DeAndre Ayton (Photo: Patrick Breen/azcentral sports)

The top senior high school basketball player in the country is officially off the board.

Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix) center DeAndre Ayton announced on “SportsCenter” on Tuesday that he was committing to Arizona over Kansas and Kentucky.

“I made Arizona home when I came to the Hillcrest Prep. My family and I can benefit by coming to my games,” said Ayton, as he put on an Arizona hat and held up a “Bear Down” T-shirt. “Coach (Joe) Pasternack and Sean Miller, we really trust those guys and trust that program and I know they can help me get to the next level.”

Ayton acknowledged the proces has taken its toll.

“It’s been rough, to be honest,” he said. “Phone call after phone call, trying to do homework and staying in the gym. My mom and I, we just stayed level-headed and be down to earth with things. ”

What did the Wildcats get in Ayton?

“If you take his ‘A’ game and compare it with everyone else’s ‘A’ game he’s slightly better and he’s got more upside,” ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi told USA TODAY Sports last month. “We still think he’s overall the best player in the class and he’s had great performances all summer.”

The 7-footer who is the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 dominated the summer scene with Cal Supreme, averaging 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on the Nike EYBL, which most consider the toughest of the three shoe circuits. Ayton also pumped in 13 points and 14 rebounds in a 123-96 win over Team Canada in the championship at the Adidas Nations.

“This summer is the best I’ve ever played,” Ayton said recently. “I led the team with a lot of positivity and I just kept pushing and tried not to take off plays. … At Adidas Nations, it was a lot of fun. That team was stacked. We had no problems and everybody shared the ball.”

Hillcrest Prep coach Matt Allen said while it was great that Ayton played well over the summer, the big focus for him was his academics. Hillcrest Prep has no classrooms. Ayton takes his classes online at Arizona Connections Academy. Allen said Ayton has maintained a 3.2 grade-point average and is working hard to make sure he’s eligible academically for college.

“His parents want him to go to college,” Allen said. “He’s good enough that he could (skip college and play a year internationally) like Emmanuel Mudiay, but they really want him to go to college. He has five credits to graduate and will need to take four to six classes as a senior. He’s scheduled to take the SAT in October and December.

“When you have the No. 1 player in the country, you need to make sure he’s eligible for college. If he isn’t, it falls on us.”

Ayton again discounted speculation that he would jump to the pros without attending college.

“College is a must,” he said. “My family wants me to have that experience and be ready for the next level.”

Ayton turned burst onto the national scene two years ago when he dominated the North Carolina Tar Heels in an exhibition game in the Bahamas. Ayton dropped 17 points and snagged 18 rebounds in the 84-83 upset win. He was only 16.

He is in his second season at Hillcrest after spending time at Balboa City in San Diego.

Contributing: Jim Halley, USA TODAY Sports

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY


More USA TODAY High School Sports